This year at IFTD Winston released their new series of rods that’s supposed to be a balance between the Winston LS and BIIIX. The Winston Air, press from the show reported it being a high-performance, lighter, all-round rod than the BIIX but would also make a superb dry fly presentation rod with characteristics similar to the LS. A true trout rod having a stiff butt sections for turning and lifting power with a supple tip for dropping size 20 midges. To me that was the BIIIX, with some companies producing super-fast rods, it already was that “true” all-rounder and tried to imagine how they could improve on such a great rod.
Flash forward to late August, in my opinion the height of dry fly season. You’ve got every size bug from tiny tricos to massive hoppers bouncing around the water’s edge, a great time to really put a rod to the test. So when I had the opportunity to fish the Air, I had to take it!
I spent the day on a local Utah freestone river, this time of year moisture is making its way back into the high desert and weather conditions can change at a drop of a dime. The morning was quiet, with low winds and clear skies. Bugs were on the water and saw a few heads up right away, so I threw on a small PMD and instantly had a few small brownies to hand. Quickly I realized the accuracy of this rod, being able to make short, precise cast next to bushes and along log jams with very little effort. The type of action you look for in a softer dry fly presentation rod such as the LS or Orvis Supefine Carbon, a true pleasure.
As the day continued the wind started to pick up, bugs were becoming scarce and the fish weren’t rising as they once were so made a change to a hopper to entice some strikes. I had some success with a few respectable, energetic fish and many more short takes or looks. This is when I started to realize the true versatility of this rod, not that it was needed but made a few long upstream casts to see how it could handle the combination of larger foam bugs and wind. With a slight haul I was still able to punch 30-40 ft cast through the wind with a tight loop and reasonable accuracy.
Although many would have been fine sticking with this strategy, I really wanted to push the limits a bit with what types of flies this rod could truly handle. I quickly changed up to a 0X leader and tied on my go-to streamer, the Goldie, a relatively small articulated pattern produced by Solitude. I had my hesitations but as soon as I started making cast you could tell this rod would handle the fly. My loops had opened up a bit but the rod still launched the streamer a good 20-25 ft into the rocks I was targeting upstream. I gave it a few twitches and sure enough I had a sizeable fish on the end of my line.
Overall the Winston Air makes for a decent all-round fly rod, it’s a great dry fly or nymphing rod but wouldn’t be my choice for a day of chucking streamers in stillwaters. For those days where you might need to eventually change up techniques and throw some meat in small to medium sized river, it’ll hang with the best of them.